David Amburn, 64, Philadelphia architect

David Amburn
David Amburn
Posted: June 02, 2012

David Amburn, 64, whose dreams of becoming an architect were realized in a long career of cutting-edge design in Philadelphia, died of cancer Tuesday, April 10, at his home in Hayesville, N.C., where he had lived since 2011.

"From the time he was a little boy ... he designed homes with Lincoln Logs," said Mr. Amburn’s sister, Peggy Epton. "And I don’t remember him ever wanting to do anything else other than architecture."

In 2008, Mayor Nutter recognized Mr. Amburn, a partner in the Center City firm Amburn/Jarosinski, with an appointment to the Philadelphia Historical Commission, where he headed its architectural review commission.

Born in Elkin, N.C., Mr. Amburn graduated from Upper Merion High School and earned a bachelor’s degree in architecture at the University of Virginia in 1970.

Mr. Amburn worked for several Philadelphia architectural firms such as KlingStubbins before cofounding the Amburn/Jarosinski firm in 1978, said his business and life partner, Jerry Jarosinski.

The work of Amburn/Jarosinski for Neducin Properties "significantly changed the face of Manayunk," Jarosinski said. The firm’s residential and commercial projects are featured in Hip and Hidden Philadelphia: The Unexpected House in a City of Tradition by Virginia Restemeyer and E.I. Weiner, published this year.

Amburn and Jarosinski were lauded in the 1990s for their work in restaurants such as Arroyo Grill, Kansas City Prime, and River City Diner, but Mr. Amburn also did more personalized work such as a Society Hill backyard, noted by The Inquirer in 2005, that included a fountain, a fireplace, and a custom dining table and banquette made from steel and durable masaranduba, an African wood.

In 1997, Hilary Jay, home and design columnist for Inquirer Magazine, wrote that "at River City Diner in Manayunk, the diner experience is akin to a road-company revival. With the United Artists multiplex next door, movies and meals merge into TGI Friday’s for the ’90s. Employing elements evocative of diners — quilted stainless steel, Naugahyde booths, yards of neon — designers David Amburn and Jerry Jarosinski transformed a vanilla strip-mall box into a stage set worthy of Grease."

Developer Joe Williams hired Amburn to help transform the block of Bainbridge Street between Broad and 15th Streets with a 27-unit gated community called Artisan Townhouses. Williams told The Inquirer in 2007 that he chose Amburn from a number of architects for his "upbeat, contemporary and urban" design.

After Mr. Amburn became ill, Jarosinski said, their firm was transferred to Jarosinski’s lifelong friend, Gabrielle Canno, who named the architectural firm Canno Design. Mr. Amburn was active with the firm until June 2011. Mr. Amburn spent his final days living with his sister in Hayesville, but he also designed a house across the road from her home, and Jarosinski will live there.

There are no other immediate survivors. A memorial is planned for an undetermined date and location in Philadelphia.

Contact Walter F. Naedele at 215-854-5607 or wnaedele@phillynews.com.

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